Well, you know what happened last time: I fed the mogwai after midnight and all hell broke loose. You’d think I’d have learnt my lesson, but no. I’ve done a few blending experiments with my bottle of Brimstone that turned out surprisingly well (here and here). And I remained intrigued by the testimony of those who reported very different experiences with different batches. Then when I met Tim Read (and Sku) for lunch in Los Angeles last month Tim gave me a sample of a batch he deemed to be quite good and very different from mine as described in my review. So, here I am, about to give the Brimstone another try. Is my bottle from a bad batch (11-10)? Is the Brimstone palette of aromas and flavours just not for me? Let’s find out.
Balcones Brimstone, Batch 13-3 (53%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Okay, this is much better right off the bat. First of all, it doesn’t assault the nose, and secondly, the first impression is not of raw wood but of a smoky, slightly rubbery sweetness. It’s clearly a sibling of my batch but unlike that one this was clearly a favoured child and was not locked in a basement and driven mad by being forced to eat kale and listen to the Decemberists on endless loop. What I mean to say is that some of the notes I found offensive in the other batch–pencil shavings, for example–are here too, but far more subdued, while others–the cheap vinegar and wet lumber–are not at all. And, wait for it, wait for it, I do get some notes of maple smoked bacon. Quite nice on the whole. Let’s see what water does. Water gets rid of a lot of the rubber and brings out some fruit–orange liqueur? But this still ain’t no world beater.
Palate: Okay, the palate is far less to my liking but it too is quite better than that of the previous batch. Starts out sweet but then there’s a big wave of acrid smoke. And it very clearly is like no smoke that ever touched Scottish malt–it actually tastes like I imagine a burning oak would, with some dry leaves thrown in. Much improved with water. The smoke goes from acrid to sweet and there’s greater depth of flavour. Some soy sauce too now and concentrated beef stock. With more time there’s some salted caramel.
Finish: Woody, smoky and salty. Actually seems at first like it’s going to be a short’ish finish but the smoke revives and keeps on going and going and picks up a barrel of salt along the way. With water there’s more sweetness on the finish too and some pepper as well. Alas, on the last few sips the pencil shavings come back in a big way at the very end.
Comments: A world apart from the other batch and improved further with water, in my opinion. Okay, Balcones, I still don’t love your Brimstone, but there can be commerce between us. And you owe everybody who bought a bottle of Batch 11-10 an apology.
Thanks to Tim R. for the sample.
Rating: 82 points. (Should really be 80 but on this occasion I’m going to reward rather than punish it for being different; would be much higher if I was only nosing it.)